Bruce Hornsby – Intersections (1985-2005)

hornsbyintersections.jpgBox set retrospectives usually fall into two categories. First, there are the “hits and more” packages like the Pretenders’ recent “Pirate Radio,” designed for casual fans with a one-stop shopping bent.

Completist sets – Bruce Springsteen’s “Tracks” and Nirvana’s “Lights Out” come to mind – satisfy the unquenchable appetites of serious fans. They’re usually packed with alternate takes, demo versions and unreleased tracks, sometimes of dubious quality.

Bruce Hornsby’s four CD, one DVD “Intersections (1985-2005)” straddles both, but ultimately plays to the hardcore audience. Well-known songs like “The Way It Is” and “Mandolin Rain” are all represented, but mostly as live tracks.

As for rarities, “Intersections” has plenty. “The End of the Innocence,” co-written with Don Henley, appears for the first time on any Hornsby record. The Grateful Dead’s “Jack Straw” and a faithful remake of Elton John’s “Madman Across the Water,” previously available on anthologies, are here as well.

The DVD is filled with stellar moments from Hornsby’s many collaborations. Chaka Kahn’s ballad, “Love Me Still,” is particularly gorgeous, as is “The Tide Will Rise,” a breathtaking live track with Pat Metheny’s guitar work and a perfect Bonnie Raitt harmony. Also included is a selection from his part-time band the Grateful Dead (“They Love Each Other”), and a bluegrass version of “The Valley Road,” a song that appears an astonishing four times on “Intersections” – twice on the CD and DVD.

A telling example of the iconoclastic pianist’s view of his own career: “Comfortably Numb,” a song he didn’t write and never recorded, appears TWICE on “Intersections.” On the CD, it’s part of a medley with “Fortunate Son,” and on the DVD it’s a live take with Roger Waters. Hornsby explains in the liner notes that he wrote “Fortunate Son” striving for the emotional intensity of the Pink Floyd song.

Given the many multiple entries on the box set, it’s a shame that the meandering “Night on the Town” was included instead of the muscular take contained on “Bruce Hornsby and the Range: A Night on the Town,” a 1990 home video release. Also puzzling is the inclusion of the studio version of “Rainbow’s Cadillac,” when another version, featuring torrid slide guitar work from Bonnie Raitt, was likely available from the “Soundstage” archives.

Still, apart from a few indulgences, notably a long-winded instrumental cycle on disk two and an blowsy solo version of “Look Out Any Window,” “Intersections” is a solid retrospective of an artist who’s made his own rules throughout a 20-year career.

(Three out of Five Stars)

Paris Hilton – Paris

parishilton.jpgMoney can’t buy you love, but it can pay for a good recording studio and enough production magic to perform corrective musical surgery on Paris Hilton’s limited talents.

Not content with being famous simply for being famous, the newly celibate heiress now wants to be a singer. To that end she’s released her first (virgin?) CD, the sex-soaked “Paris,” with the help of hip-hop mogul Scott Storch and more co-writers than “Snakes on a Plane.”

Some of the record falls into the “guilty pleasure” realm, while the rest is simply awful. Let’s start with that.

It’s hard to imagine making Rod Stewart’s hideous “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” even worse, but she manages. She samples “Grease” in “I Want You” to similarly execrable effect. “Jealousy,” a series of musical jabs supposedly aimed at her former reality television co-star Nicole Richie, is so simple-minded a fifth grader might have written it.

For Paris, perhaps, that may be an upgrade.

“Fighting Over Me” has Judakiss and Fat Joe rhyming and Hilton’s treacly over-enunciating, stretching “fight” into two syllables.

How is her voice? Let’s put it this way. If someone asks Paris Hilton, are those real? They mean her vocal cords. Her performance is fed through more electronic cheesecloth than a hundred dollar bottle of wine, and still sounds chunky when all is said and done.

OK, there’s plenty of red meat for Paris’s detractors, who with some justification feel that there should be some things money can’t buy. But the record does have its’ moments.

“Stars Are Blind” is a passable bit of pseudo-reggae fluff. “Not Leaving Without You” is at least as good as the worst moments of Madonna’s “Confessions on a Dance Floor.”

“Turn It Up” has a certain hypnotic charm. “Screwed,” a Go-Go’s sound-alike penned by Kara DioGuardi could even be “Paris’s” (sort of) breakthrough song, if it didn’t sound so much DioGuardi’s other clients, which include Kelly Clarkson and Hillary Duff.

The best anyone can say about “Paris” is that if you heard it and didn’t know it was Paris Hilton, it wouldn’t cause screaming and nausea, for at least three or four songs, anyway.

Once you learn the singer’s true identity, however, keep a paper bag close by. It’s a versatile accessory, something Paris Hilton knows a lot about.

(One Star out of Five)

Today’s Free Download – Devon Allman’s Honeytribe

TorchThe 30-year son of Gregg Allman fronts a band that broke up in 2001 and re-formed this year. This track is a pedal to the medal blues-rock stomp reminiscent of Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s tougher stuff. Unfortunately, Devon hasn’t amassed KWS’s chops, but what he lacks in finesse he makes up in passion.

“Torch” is the title cut form the band’s debut album on Liverwire Records, which drops next Tuesday.

Befitting his lineage, young Mr. Allman is a very capable singer, with a throaty baritone that can hit the high notes when it needs to. The band’s web site has a couple of other tracks streaming, a cover of Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry” and “Maholo,” a nifty instrumental featuring Allman playing with the subtle dexterity of a young Carlos Santana.

Devon Allman’s Honeytribe
Livewire Recordings

Buy at iTunes Music Store

Download “Torch” (MP3, 192kbps)